From an interview on latest issue of EDGE
Activision CEO thinks studio autonomy is essential to successful publishing, and that EA has failed to realise this.
Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, believes that the publisher's success is due to allowing studios to retain their autonomy and personalities, rather than creating internal studios like EA. Speaking during an exclusive interview in issue 220 of Edge (available from UK newsagents tomorrow), Kotick says that EA is struggling to attract the best people due to unattractive working practices.
"The core principle of how we run the company is the exact opposite of EA," he says. "EA will buy a developer and then it will become ĎEA Floridaí, ĎEA Vancouverí, ĎEA New Jerseyí, whatever. We always looked and said, 'You know what? What we like about a developer is that they have a culture, they have an independent vision and thatís what makes them so successful.' We donít have an Activision anything - itís Treyarch, Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer.
"That, to me, is one of the unassailable rules of building a publishing company. And in every case except for two, the original founders of the studios are still running the studios today. The only thing that we try to do is to provide a support structure to make them more successful. If you do a really good job - and a lot of our studios do - you get to pick what is, in my view, the most difficult thing to pick in the industry: to make original intellectual property."
Asked whether he thought that allowing so much autonomy resulted in additional risk, Kotick feels that Activision is confident in the abilities of its studios and that the strategy poses no risk at all.
"Virtually all of our studio heads are serious, responsible people," he explains. "They want to make great games, they want to do it the right way, and I think one of the benefits we have [with] being a big company is that we donít have the same pressures of, 'Oh, we have to have it out for this particular quarter.' Thereís not a studio at this company that will tell you: 'Activision is forcing us to get the game out.'
"We get in business with people who are responsible, theyíre creative, they want to make great games. The incentive schemes that weíve devised all reward success. But thereís not anything that is a 'Hey, you have to get the game out on Thursday.'"
Though EA is coming round to Activision's approach with its 'city state' structure, Kotick believes that the publisher is underestimating its ability to change.
"The thing is, it doesnít work that way - you canít be a floor wax and then decide that youíre going to become a dessert topping," he says. "That doesnít work, itís your DNA. [EAís] DNA isnít oriented towards that model - it doesnít know how to do it, as a culture or as a company, and it never has... Look, EA has a lot of resources, itís a big company thatís been in business for a long time, maybe itíll figure it out eventually. But itís been struggling for a really long time. The most difficult challenge it faces today is: great people donít really want to work there.
"Itís like, if you have no other option, you might consider them. They have someÖ the team that makes Madden is a really great team, itís been able to manage, capture and keep some good people. But we have no shortage of opportunity to recruit out of EA Ė thatís their biggest challenge: its stock options have no value. Itís lost its way. And until it has success, and hits, and gets that enthusiasm back for the company, itís going to have a struggle getting really talented people, which is going to translate into less-than-great games."
Activision boss, Bobby Kotick has claimed that fired Infinity Ward founders, Jason West and Vince Zampella will "have a really hard time ever being productive or successful ever again."
That's what he told Edge magazine in its latest issue, which includes a massive exclusive interview with the outspoken Activision head.
In it, Kotick spreads light on the bitter departure of the ex-Infinity Ward bosses - who've now formed a studio with EA - telling the mag he feels "betrayed".
"It shook my belief in two specific people, who were my friends," he said. "The frustrating thing about that is, the stuff that these guys did, I never would have expected them to do. We're a public company, we've got ethics obligations, and the things they did were... I would go to jail if I did them.
"You can't use the company and the company's assets for your own personal benefit, and you can't use the leverage that you might have for personal benefit - you're not allowed to do that! And so we didn't have any choice."
Kotick said Activision "knew what the consequences would be," when West and Zampella departed, because most of the core Infinity Ward staff were all close friends.
"When we bought the company, they were 20 or 30 guys - these were guys that shared vacation homes together, they were all best friends, they were at each other's weddings. We knew that when we had to fire Jason and Vince we were going to lose a lot of really talented people," Kotick added.
"That's one of those really difficult decisions as the CEO of a company, where you step back and say, 'No good is going to come of this. They're going to leave and probably have a really hard time ever being productive or successful ever again, and we're going to lose some talented people, and there's nothing we can do about it.' And there wasn't."
Kotick went on to claim he's received "something like 5,000 resumes" for the empty Infinity Ward positions.
More from this interview here,
"I've never met him in my life Ė I've never had anything to do with him. I never had any involvement in the Vivendi project that they were doing, BrŁtal Legend, other than I was in one meeting where the guys looked at it and said, 'He's late, he's missed every milestone, he's overspent the budget and it doesn't seem like a good game. We're going to cancel it.'
"And do you know what? That seemed like a sensible thing to do. And it turns out, he was late, he missed every milestone, the game was not a particularly good game..."
Kotick also insisted his infamous "taking the fun out of videogame development" quote was just a quip.
"That was a joke! The fact that there are people Ė and it's a small vocal minority Ė that actually think that I meant it... How do you combat that?"
He added: "This is my dream job. I've been playing games since I was 18 years old. I could have bought any company, but I bought a bankrupt game company, and I've been doing it for 21 years. This idea that I'm not passionate about videogames is ludicrous. But you say something and it gets taken out of context."
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